CDC Greenlights COVID-19 Booster for Children Aged 5 to 11 Years

The CDC is encouraging parents of children in this age group to first finish a primary vaccination series, saying only 28% now are in that category.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday, May 19, 2022, announced in a statement its recommendation that children aged 5 to 11 years should receive a booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

The decision was based on guidance from the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) whose members voted 11-1, with one abstention, to recommend the third shot for this age group at least 5 months after completion of the primary 2-dose series, according to the CDC.

The ACIP vote came 2 days after the US Food and Drug Administration revised an existing emergency use authorization to appprove the booster dose.

As she approved the recommendation, CDC director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, made a plea to parents of unvaccinated children in that age group to schedule the first shot soon.

“Vaccination with a primary series among this age group has lagged behind other age groups leaving them vulnerable to serious illness,” said Walensky in the CDC statement. “With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected.”

According to the CDC, nearly 5 million children aged 5 to 11 years have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020. There have been 15 000 hospitalizations in this age group, CDC says, and more than 180 children have died.

Looking at COVDI-19 vaccination rates for the 5- to 11-year age group, the CDC reported in early May that approximately 8.1 million American children in the age group complete the 2-dose Pfizer-BioNTech series, representing just slightly more than one-quarter (28%) of that population. One dose has been administered to another 1.7 million.

Second adult booster now highly recommended

In tandem with the expansion of booster doses for select youth, Walensky also announced that the CDC is strengthening its recommendation that indviduals aged ≥50 years should get a second booster, for many Americans a fourth shot - to be considered up-to-date on immunization against SARS-CoV-2 infection.

In March the CDC made a recommendation that people with certain immunocompromising conditions and those aged ≥50 years, espeically those aged ≥65 years, receive an additional, or second, booster shot. Second booster uptake has been slow with many Americans taking a "wait and see" approach.

The CDC cautions that cases in the US have steadily increased over the past month with a "steep and substantial" increase in hospital admissions for older Americans. The older adult age group does have the highest coverage of any group of first booster doses, the CDC says, but for many of them the last dose they recieved, booster or primary, was many months ago, raising concern over waning immunity.

Support for the CDC's recommendation comes PFizer-BioNTech data announced in April that showed a booster dose of the mRNA vaccine elicited a 36-fold increase in neutralizing titers against the more dangerous SARS-CoV-2 omicron variant in addition to real-world data demonstrating protection in the 5- to 11-year age group reported in MMWR.